- Letter Writer
- WWII operations, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I was very pleased to read the article by Captain A.M. Downes entitled ONS 5 and the U-Boat Battle in the latest issue of the Naval Historical Review. As Captain Downes pointed out, this victory against overwhelming forces of weather and the enemy was a turning point in the U-boat war and I enjoyed reading his lively and informative eye-witness account of this heroic struggle.
Captain Downes mentioned that one of the corvettes involved in this battle, HMS Snowflake, was commanded by Australian Captain Harold Chesterman. He became well known on the Australian coast for thirty years after the war as captain of the lighthouse tenders Cape Leeuwin and Cape Moreton.
Together with Peter Nunan, I had the privilege of writing Captain Chesterman’s biography with the support of his family who gave us full access to his private papers. This book was published late last year by Central Queensland University Press under the title Master Mariner. It covers Captain Chesterman’s long seagoing career, from the school ship HMS Worcester in the early 1930s to his retirement from the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service in 1978.
His wartime service was particularly distinguished. As well as commanding HMS Snowflake during ONS 5 and other significant convoy battles, Harold Chesterman was one of the few survivors when HMS Zinnia was torpedoed during a disastrous Gibraltar convoy run in 1941. This convoy battle was the inspiration for a chapter in Nicholas Monserrat’s classic novel The Cruel Sea, and Zinnia’s loss can be recognised in the sinking of the fictional corvette Sorrel. Captain Chesterman also participated in a remarkable Arctic convoy defence against large German destroyers.I strongly recommend Captain Chesterman’s story to anyone interested in the lives of eminent Australian sailors in peace or war.